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by Margaret D. Mitchell
Week of April 27, 2014
"Don't grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look--the Judge is standing at the door!" -James 5:9
There I was, sitting on my prayer chair half awake, before I’d even made my first cup of coffee when the offense appeared just outside my window. A distant family member who had afflicted me for the past 10 years in the most bullish ways was pulling into my driveway. She was dropping off items she had borrowed for a recent party. I could feel my flesh rise up with thoughts like: Why is she coming here unannounced at such an early hour? Could she possibly get any more annoying? Home alone, I held my breath, refusing to unleash my tongue in the silent atmosphere of my home. So I prayed through clenched teeth, “God, why does this person bug me so much?!”
God revealed to me that what I was seeing in this woman was the same offense that He saw in me: Self-righteousness.
God doesn’t reveal our sins to us for the purpose of condemnation. He reveals them to us for the purpose of awakening us to that from which He desires to deliver us. He does us a favor by breaking through the enemy’s deception that has kept us in bondage and by showing us the way out. His truth sets us free (John 8:32)!
When we don’t see others as God sees them, we see them through a hindered perspective, which is a mix of our own understanding and the enemy’s lies.
I had complained about this woman before to my husband in private. But God desired I come up higher, come up out of that trap. It was as though God was saying to me, "Here's an invitation to get it right this time."
We only have to look as far as Job’s inner circle friends for evidence. After Job nearly lost everything, they insisted that he had to have done something wrong to bring on his afflictions. They even cited their knowledge of God’s laws as they understood them. But they were wrong.
Job’s friends struggled with an attack of self-righteousness. While in the pit with Job, they behaved like well-meaning, know-it-all, imposing, condemning, anti-Proverbs 3:5 “friends.” They added insult to Job’s injuries. They were quick to judge without God’s perspective.
Self-righteousness is selfish idolatry. It is an exaltation choosing our perspective over God’s, knowingly or unknowingly. It is deception that presents the lie of our “right” standard above God’s standard of righteousness. Who can fathom all of God’s righteousness? Even Job, the most righteous man of his time, could not.
Our self-righteousness is a snare of betrayal to the heart and in the face of Jesus. It is a smite that strongly suggests that His grace at the cross and in our circumstances isn’t good enough. Our self-righteousness is inherently distrusting of The Lord.
The enemy will try to provoke our fears and carnal desires to emerge into actions that we then self-justify as a false standard. Think Eve. Think Judas.
All the enemy knows is selfish motivation because he is the epitome of selfishness. Self-righteousness is his imposition of his scheme of selfishness, which returns a harvest of judgment upon us.
He is the accuser of the brethren in the heavenly courts, the prosecutor (Rev. 12:10, Job 1:6). If he can get us to exalt ourselves and our standards above God’s, he has evidence to condemn us. Don’t take this deceiver’s bait! Be wise.
No one likes to be around a self-righteous person because of the constant unrest, the critical eye and the words of judgment spoken against others. Once delivered from this vicious trap, Christians can more easily love others and pray them through.
The Make-Up of Self-Righteousness…
I believe self-righteousness is formed by ungodly influences that are mixed with godly influences. For example, our parents may have taught us right from wrong based on what they understood of The Bible. They may have also inadvertently infused in us to see the world and judge situations and people according to some residual carnality that they had yet to overcome—a mixture of Biblical wisdom and their life experiences—right or wrong.
But when we become a new creature in Christ, God expects us to come up higher into His glory and holiness and begin to see those same situations and people according to His purer perspective, which may or may not be synonymous with our parents. This is spiritual growth, sanctification. And no matter what we’ve been through, God desires to purify us from the mixture and holds us to His standard, not ours.
Our Way Is Not the High Way…
You may know people who are set in their ways. Maybe you have a few grumpy, all-about-me family members that lean on a set of standards from which they will not budge. Everyone is expected to fall in line with their beliefs and do things their way. Their standards are obvious to you.
The truth is that we all have some set standards that God desires to break in order to give us a breakthrough for more of His likeness in us. And others—especially those close to us—can often see what’s in us—the good and not so good. And our emotions need to grow up and come into a higher level of spiritual maturity, according to God’s righteousness, not whatever other standard we have adopted above His.
God will allow people close to us to irritate us by mirroring the very issues from which He desires to deliver us. God may use them as a vice, like Job’s friends, to tell us our stuff outright. They may judge us, condemn us and just plain get on our last nerve so we can know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of what we unknowingly do to others.
The enemy may try to use these people’s annoyances as a snare to try to provoke us into self-justifying our stance, just like Job did to his friends. But God, in His sovereignty, will use the enemy to only go so far—far enough to cause us to press into God for an ultimate breakout from our bondage into His higher holiness.
After studying the Book of Job for weeks, if I have learned nothing else, it’s to not self-justify my position or perspective regarding God’s sovereignty. God is so much bigger than all our messy relationships and circumstances, and He desires to give us more, just as He gave to Job. Once Job humbled himself and prayed for his friends, God doubled his blessings!
Your Way Out…
Whenever we present a situation to others and grumble and complain about that person—whether we do it to their face or behind closed doors, even if it’s only to our closest friend, or mother or pastor’s wife or counselor—God sees it and is not pleased. As James 5:9 indicates: Grumbling is a snare of the enemy that will open the door for us (not them) to be judged!
God invites us to lay down our hindrances. He will use others to mirror our self-righteousness in an effort to cause us to press into Him for relief. This vice will continue until we arrive at a pivotal moment in which we become desperate enough for relief that we will breakthrough into receiving God’s truth over the deception of the enemy that we’ve previously operated under.
The light bulb will come on. We’ll receive God’s revelation, repent and be restored by Him to higher ground. This is an area of spiritual maturity that God desires for all of us. Will you receive His ways? If so…
This devotional was adapted from Margaret's forthcoming book, "Enduring Grace." All rights reserved.